Fidelity in Nursing: What You Need to Know

SimpleNursing Editorial Team Oct 18, 2022
Pretty young brunette nurse talks to her fellow nursing students in a hospital

Fidelity is defined as “unswerving adherence to duty,” and it’s required for nurses to solidify patient care practices. “Fidelity” in nursing is one of the main characteristics of a nurse’s ethical behavior. 

Nurses who are conscientious and loyal to their patients (and careers) are more likely to be recognized as leaders in the field. 

Fidelity an essential part of nursing ethics because it guides nurses to stay true to codes of conduct, and do what is best for patients. Fidelity is also important to know for courses and exam questions.

What is Fidelity in Nursing?

Fidelity in nursing ethics is when a nurse remains true to the values, principles, and standards. This means not engaging in any unethical behavior and following guidelines set by healthcare employers.

Fidelity, as an ethical principle, is about ensuring that you’ve done everything possible to make sure your actions align with high standards and values. For most health care professionals the only thing guiding their choices in patient care is strong morals and a nursing code of ethics. Nurses do not take the Hippocratic oath as physicians but pledge to provide safe, quality care for patients. 

An example of a pledge used in many nursing schools during pinning ceremonies and graduation is the Florence Nightingale pledge.

Before starting treatment and care, nurses need to think critically about how their actions might affect others.

Fidelity vs Veracity in Nursing

Fidelity and veracity are both vital concepts in nursing ethics. While these two concepts appear similar, there are major differences. While fidelity is a virtue that requires constant attention and effort, veracity is an easily achieved virtue of honesty.

Fidelity means that nurses must be loyal to the profession and the patients they serve, and veracity means that nurses should always tell the truth.

To illustrate this, let’s consider how you might apply fidelity in a clinical situation. If you’re caring for a patient who has been diagnosed with cancer, you and a health care provider (HCP) will tell them about their prognosis and discuss what they can expect as they continue treatment (as part of their care plan). 

But when it comes time to write down these conversations in your notes (or even just to think back on them later), it’s easy to forget exactly what was said during those conversations. So again, fidelity comes into this with being consistent with nursing notes and charting.

It’s also possible that you may change what was said slightly so that it seems more positive or optimistic than it actually was at the time — even if it’s by accident. This is where veracity becomes important. 

Along with other medical colleagues, you must be truthful in sharing patient care, goals, and diagnoses (and document them accurately).

Nursing Ethical Principles (and Where Fidelity Ties in)

Nursing ethics is all about ensuring that patients receive quality care with respect for their rights and dignity. It’s also about making sure that systems in place ensure that patients get what they need from medical personnel. 

Along with every other nursing ethic, practicing fidelity helps you meet patients’ needs. Some of those other ethics include beneficence and nonmaleficence.

Beneficence vs Nonmaleficence in Nursing

There are many similarities and differences between beneficence and nonmaleficence in nursing ethics, but the main difference lies in their respective goals.

The goal of beneficence is to practice nursing in good faith, while the purpose of nonmaleficence is to avoid doing harm. To put it another way: beneficence aims to help others, and nonmaleficence aims to prevent others from being hurt.

Beneficence is observed in the nursing process, so patients are provided with the best care possible. In practice, nonmaleficence can mean removing life support from patients who are in critical condition and don’t want to be resuscitated (after obtaining a signed DNR). 

Examples of Fidelity in Nursing

Being faithful (with fidelity) also means being truthful about a patient’s condition or treatment plan — you have to be straightforward with them. One common example of this is using a written order to ensure that the patient gets the correct medication and dosage.

In another example, if a patient asks how long they’ll be in the hospital and you tell them, “just one more day,” they should be able to trust that answer as accurate. An exception would be if an unforeseen circumstance or emergency occurs.

Let’s say you have a patient who is experiencing pain but refusing any treatment because they believe it will interfere with their religious observance. You can’t just ignore this — you have to be faithful to your oath as a nurse and find a way to help them feel better without interfering with their beliefs. 

With the help of the health care provider (HCP) and other colleagues, this could be finding similar treatments or sharing the truth of the situation – “I’m sorry, but you have a choice between blood transfusion or continue to have severe anemia symptoms.”

Learn More Nursing Ethics Here

Ethics is a core course in nursing school to help students prepare for the real world, which means fidelity (and other ethics) will be tested on the NCLEX.

With the help of a supplemental nursing resource tool, you can memorize ethics more easily and critically think of ethical situations in an easier way. 

SimpleNursing covers ethics and procedures with video material, rationales, and so much more to ace your exams and pass your classes.

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